Retail Therapy Guest Blogger: Lara Presber’s spring collection inspired by wavy, be-finned Aqua Tower

The National Post, Posted: January 26, 2010, 9:30 AM by Karen Hawthorne

Lara Presber, Calgary architect and fashion designer, begins a two-week guest spot, blogging about her “sustainable” approach to her women’s wear line: designing for a sustained period of use, not a throwaway one-season garment. Her collection is available in stores across Canada and next month at her Flagship Store and Studio space in downtown Calgary.

Lara Presber for National Post

The inspiration for my Spring 2010 collection started with a trip to Chicago a couple of years ago. I was staying at the Fairmont and had a room with an amazing view of the lake and also this incredible skyscraper that was under construction. I had no idea at the time what it was, but couldn’t get the image of the horizontal concrete waves cantilevered out from a glass tower out of my head.

It wasn’t until almost a year later that I discovered the identity of this mystery building to be the Aqua Tower by Chicago based Studio Gang Architects. It wasn’t just the physical expression of the tower that intrigued me, but also that it was the first high-rise tower in North America to be built by a woman led firm (this is according to numerous articles I found online, but hasn’t been confirmed by the architect). It was at this point that I was overwhelmingly convinced that this needed to be the basis for my next collection.

The main tower portion of the building is glass with individual concrete fins projecting out perpendicular to the face. I was really interested in the notion that 2 very hard building materials could produce such a feminine and soft looking structure.  I liked the idea of the waves both from the perspective of the proximity to the lake as well as the reflectivity of the glass and of course undulating shapes of the fins.

I started with some very basic tailored shapes made from linen to which I added some soft, flowing tiers of silk for contrast and movement. I found a silk print that mimicked an image I had seen of the building at sunset inspiring me to add gold into my neutral colour palette of white, blue and grey. After some further investigation, I discovered that the original occupant of the site was the Illinois Central Railroad and found a whimsical ad campaign dating back to the 1920’s. It was from these ads that I added the softer silhouettes and chevron patterned silk.

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